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1980/81: Ipswich thankful for Thijssen

1980/81: Ipswich thankful for Thijssen
Ipswich's Michael Mills shows off the trophy ©Getty Images

1980/81: Ipswich thankful for Thijssen

Ipswich Town FC 3-0 AZ Alkmaar
(Wark 28p, Thijssen 46, Mariner 56)
AZ Alkmaar 4-2 Ipswich Town FC
(Welzl 7, Metgod 25, Tol 40, Jonker 74; Thijssen 4, Wark 32)
(agg: 5-4 to Ipswich)

There were two unsung teams on the European football hymn sheet in 1981 - UEFA Cup finalists Ipswich Town FC and AZ Alkmaar. Neither a traditional force, they nonetheless offered a blueprint for success built on good coaching and wise investment.

Ipswich underlined this when beating Widzew Lódz, conquerors of Manchester United FC and Juventus FC, in round three. The Polish side followed FC Aris Thessaloniki and CU Bohemians Praha out of the competition, thrashed 5-0 at Ipswich's tight Portman Road ground. From there Bobby Robson's men cruised past AS Saint-Etienne, then outlasted a strong 1. FC Köln in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Alkmaar made sure there would be two novice finalists with wins against FA Red Boys Differdange, PFC Levski Sofia, FK Radnicki Niš, Sporting Lokeren St-Niklaas Waasland and FC Sochaux-Montbéliard. The irony for the Eredivisie side, however, was that it would take a Dutchman to undo them. Ipswich's Frans Thijssen scored in both legs of the final to keep the initiative with the English league runners-up.

His 46th-minute goal at Ipswich added to John Wark's opener and set up a grandstand finish capped by Paul Mariner's third. And when Thijssen struck again in the return, it left his countrymen staring at the north face of the Eiger. They did scale the heights - Johnny Metgod inspiring Alkmaar to a 4-2 success - yet it was not enough to deny Ipswich their trophy as 5-4 aggregate winners.